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Dog Bite Cases

I am a dog owner; I have also been involved in dog bite cases on the side of both the injured person and the dog owner being sued.

I recently had an interesting case in which I was representing a dog owner whose dog supposedly bit a person who may have been intoxicated and who also may have walked backwards and accidentally stepped on the dog who was just laying there- the dog reacted by biting the person in the foot. The dog bite statute is clear that the dog owner shall be liable- without the need to prove fault– when his/her dog causes injury, so long as when the incident occurs, the injured person was not committing a trespass or other tort, or was not teasing, tormenting or abusing such dog, G.L. c. 140, s. 155.

I was admittedly a bit conflicted here- I understand the need for the statute, i.e., that is the cost of owning a dog here in Massachusetts, but the “injured” person’s own role in this was very relevant in my mind. We eventually settled this case after a mediation; the mediator took the position that the “injured” person’s actions in possibly being intoxicated and walking backwards without looking did not constitute “an other tort”, i.e., her own comparative negligence, and he may have been right.

The point of this story is that here in Massachusetts the dog bite statute clearly protects persons injured by a dog and there are few circumstances where the statute does not apply.

At Harris & Associates, we have had extensive experience in the prosecution and defense of dog bite cases and we are happy to assist you in navigating your way through this deceptively complicated area of the law.